A Litter Storyboard

There are all sorts of formats for storyboards.

Traditionally, those for advertisements read from left to right, then downwards, each shot with the script and stage directions underneath.

Simple films often use a two-column design – the shot on the left, remarks, script, etc on the right.

A feature film is almost certain to use a separate card for each shot, maybe with lines, etc, on the reverse. The cards will probably be in colour, show ideas for costume and lighting, and contain much more information.

Mine are in black and white – simple sketches. Very bad sketches. But they show enough. Three main bits of information:

  • Who or what is in the shot
  • How close the shot is
  • Which way that person is looking or walking (remember crossing the line?)

I’ll try the left to right format.

1. CU Man’s hands

Peeling banana

2. Man

Starts to eat and walks off left

3. LS man

Enters shot from right, walks towards camera and right

4. Cont. to MS

Finishes banana, throws skin, exits right

5. CU banana skin

Drops into shot

6. LS girl

Appears round corner, walks right

7. Cont. closer

She sees litter

8. Skin

What she sees

9. MCU girl A/B

She looks up and sees man

10. LS man O/S

She calls out, “Hey!”

11. Man

He turns…

12. What he sees

He mistakes her meaning

13. Man happy

He starts to walk towards her

14. Skin and foot

He slips and falls

15. Man closer

Fall continued

16. Girl’s reaction

She moves towards him

17. LS him on ground

She enters shot, picks up skin, exits

18. CU bin

She throws skin, shuts lid, revealing…

19. Sign

Narration: “Don’t litter…”

20. CU man

Narration continues: “… it’s a real headache.”

It doesn’t matter if you can’t draw!

Terrible rough sketches! And nineteen shots – all for thirty seconds or so of story.

But the quality of the drawing isn’t relevant. What is important is how little actual work is involved during the filming.

For a start, shots 3, 4, 6, 7, 12, and 18 are all the same shot!

The camera position for shot 10 is the same as 11, 13 and 15.

5, 8, and 14 are the same. 18 and 19 are continuous.

For 1 and 2, the camera needn’t move; just zoom out.

Similarly 16 and 19 don’t require the camera to move.

So there are really five ‘set-ups’ for the nineteen shots

I’d probably start with the main action with shot 10 as a ‘master’.

11, 13 and 15 next, to save a camera move.

3 to 16 after that. This shot, and all the other ‘similars’, do as continuous action, not little snippets. Then you’ve got lots of coverage.

17 and 20.

18 and 19, after which the girl can be released. (People don’t like to hang around.)

And finish off with shot 2, then 1.

Odd, that the first shot on screen is the last to be photographed.

But not all that odd. The sequence could stand without shots 1 and 2. So do them last, just in case of rain or whatever.

The other one that could be dropped is 20. Not very important.

A Stitch in Time Saves Nine

Doing a storyboard only takes a few minutes – but it can save hours on location, when you’ve got so many other things to worry about.